Center for Theory and Computation

The Maryland Astronomy Center for Theory and Computation (CTC) is the umbrella for theory- and computation-related programs within the Department of Astronomy. The mission of the CTC is to promote excellence and innovation in theoretical and computational astrophysics, providing a collective identity and focus point for both research and educational activities. Groups and individuals within the CTC pursue cutting-edge research that covers the full spectrum of technical and topical disciplines within contemporary astrophysics, and maintain collaborations with other theoretical and observational research groups worldwide. A major CTC emphasis is on developing and using state-of-the-art computational tools to extend the frontiers of astrophysical knowledge.

The CTC is the administrative structure that manages theory-related activities and resources within the Astronomy Department, including the theory seminar series ("Theory Lunch"), the Theory Visitors Program, and the Department computing cluster (yorp).

CTC People


Benedikt Diemer
specializes in computational astrophysics, meaning that he runs and analyzes large computer simulations. His primary research interest is in structure formation, the gravitational collapse of matter in the universe into the structures we observe or infer today, such as galaxies and dark matter halos.
Doug Hamilton
has a wide range of interests including the origins and dynamics of rings, moons, planetary systems, star clusters, and black holes.
Eliza Kempton (CTC Director)
studies the atmospheres of extrasolar planets. She specializes in 1-D radiative transfer, atmospheric chemistry and cloud/haze modeling.
Tad Komacek
studies the atmospheric circulation, climate, and evolution of a broad range of exoplanets encompassing hot gas giants and temperate rocky planets through a combination of three-dimensional atmospheric circulation models with a range of complexity, one-dimensional interior evolution models, and pencil and paper theory.
Cole Miller
is interested in high energy processes in accreting neutron star and black hole systems, measurements of neutron star radii and their implications for dense matter, and gravitational radiation from binary compact objects.
Derek Richardson
works on granular models of asteroid interiors and surfaces, the dynamics of dense planetary rings, and the formation of planetesimals in the early solar system, and is involved in several current and proposed space missions to small solar system bodies, including as co-investigator of the DART mission, scheduled for launch in 2022 with impact in 2023.
Massimo Ricotti
is a cosmologist interested in high redshift galaxy formation, nearby dwarf galaxies, the physics of the intergalactic and interstellar medium.


Shmuel Bialy (CTC Postdoctoral Fellow)
Drew Hogg
Matej Malik

Graduate Students

Harrison Agrusa
Joe DeMartini
Alex Dittmann
Jordan Ealy
Giannina Guzman-Caloca
Blake Hartley
Chongchong He
Isiah Holt
Jegug Ih
Katya Leidig
Julian Marohnic
Calvin Osinga
Jongwon Park
Arjun Savel

CTC Research

Members of the CTC pursue research in a wide range of areas within theoretical astrophysics. Subject areas of particular emphasis include:

Solar System Astrophysics:
orbital dynamics of rings and moons, fundamentals of resonance-driven evolution, mechanics of asteroid and planetesimal collisions, evolution of dust, solar system origins
Galactic Astrophysics:
formation of stars and planets, dynamics of the interstellar medium, photodissociation regions, star cluster dynamics, dark matter dynamics
High Energy Astrophysics:
radiation from neutron stars and black holes, gravitational radiation, diagnostics of AGN, fundamentals of accretion physics, magnetohydrodynamics of jets and winds, gas physics in galaxy clusters
galaxy formation & evolution, intergalactic medium (Lyman-alpha forest and reionization), the formation of the first stars, black holes, globular clusters and the origin of dwarf galaxies.
atmospheric structure, chemistry, dynamics, climate, and evolution; connections to observations and origins

A major emphasis of the CTC is on development and application of computational tools to enable forefront astrophysics research. These tools include symplectic integration codes for orbit evolution, parallel tree codes for N-body problems, and grid-based codes for magnetohydrodynamics. CTC members are also involved in development of community software packages for visualization and analysis of numerical simulations. Large-scale numerical simulations are performed on the Department's in-house computing cluster, yorp, the University's deepthought clusters, and at national supercomputer centers.

Student research projects in theoretical/computational areas are normally supervised by CTC professorial faculty, often in collaboration with CTC research faculty members and with members of the department involved in observational research.


Theory Lunch

A forum for research lectures, on an advanced level, given either by members of the department or visitors. Upcoming Theory Lunch talks are listed in the Astronomy Department Colloquia Calendar.

CTC Postdoctoral Fellowship

Facilities and Resources

Cluster Computing

Theory Think Tank

Computational facilities administered by the CTC include the Department computing cluster, yorp. This cluster consists of Intel and AMD computer nodes that are regularly upgraded or replaced to keep the facility modern and competitive. The cluster supports both serial and distributed parallel applications. Regular maintenance includes software upgrades and tape backups. For more information, visit the yorp web page.

The CTC is also a partner in campus high-performance computing. In 2014 the new deepthought2 cluster came on line, consisting of nearly 10,000 CPU cores with fast networking and high-throughout I/O. The Astronomy department has priority access to a substantial fraction of the facility.

(The picture above shows one of the yorp racks with AMD servers.)

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